Rate of Uninsured Americans Steady Despite Obamacare

Data shows slight change in coverage as Affordable Care Act ramps up

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From left: Jessy Abouarab talks with Excelina Ordonez about the Affordable Care Act, the benefits of health coverage and the new health care options outside a grocery store in Miami, on Sept. 16, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Abouarab works for Organizing for Action, which aims to inform the public about the health care exchanges at the heart of the new law.

Census data released Tuesday shows pieces of the Affordable Care Act already in place did little to change the uninsured rate in the United States between 2011 and 2012. The law’s major coverage insurance provisions, which include an expansion of Medicaid and federal subsidies to help individuals afford private insurance, won’t begin until 2014.

A new regulation in the Affordable Care Act requiring insurers to cover adult children of enrollees up to age 26 contributed to a 2.2 percent decrease in the uninsured rate among 19 to 25-year-olds between 2010 and 2011, but this change leveled off in 2012. About 27 percent of people in this group were uninsured in 2012 and they are a major target of ACA outreach efforts. Coaxing young people, who tend to be healthier than other age groups, into the private insurance pool will help offset the cost of covering older and sicker Americans.

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According to the Obama Administration, state-based health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, will need to enroll 2.7 million healthy 18-25-year-olds to remain solvent. To this end, the ACA will allow young adults to meet the law’s requirement to have insurance, known as the individual mandate, by purchasing low-cost catastrophic insurance plans with high deductibles. (Older Americans will need more comprehensive coverage to meet the mandate and avoid federal fines.)

There was a very slight drop in the percentage of uninsured in the total population, which fell to 15.4 percent in 2012 from 15.7 in 2011. Those covered by government-funded insurance increased from 32.2 percent in 2011 to 32.6 percent in 2012, mainly due to more baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare.

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